On Feb. 20th, I toured the Marston house in the north end of Balboa park. http://www.balboapark.org/in-the-park/marston-house
Although I wasn’t fond of our main tour guide (more about that later), I’m glad I went to see it. The house was built in 1905 for George Marston, his wife, Anna Gunn Marston and their five children. It was built by William Sterling Hebbard and Irving Gill in the Arts and Crafts style. It is settled on 5 acres with lawns, formal gardens and canyon gardens. The house is 8500 square feet with 6 bedrooms and 7 bathrooms. It has patios, porches and a sleeping porch. It is unusual in that all the main rooms have thresholds you have to step over to get into and out of the rooms, so the maid wouldn’t spread dust into the rooms while sweeping. The walk in closets are quite different for that era and have windows in them to let in circulation between the closet, bedroom and hallways. It had solar heating, many built in shelves, benches and cabinets.
Mary Marston donated the house to the city in 1987 and lived in it until her death way past the age of 100. Two other daughters lived past their 100’s, too. The house was designed to support good health and hygeine. Many of the rooms are made with old growth redwood paneling. Although the upstairs bedrooms used that same wood, they were painted over to help cut down on mold, to promote the family’s health.
George Marston was a civic leader, owner of the only department store in San Diego, a philanthropist and quite the conservationist. He rallied support in San Diego to keep the coastline for private owners vs. business development. He sat on the board that started the Public Library system in San Diego. He Founded the Historical Society (Now the History center), founded the San Diego branch of the YMCA, helped promote and guide Balboa Park, donated the land for Presidio park and built the museum there, gathered donations and donated himself to create Torrey Pines State Reserve, and also Anza Borego Desert State Park.
There was a butler’s kitchen that was next to the dining room and then the kitchen was to the east of that, to buffer noise from the kitchen. The butler’s room had a box in it that held various buzzer buttons that sounded throughout the house to summon people. The Pantry was also vented to allow air flow and cut down on mold. The kitchen cabinet doors were open under the sink to prevent mold.
Several of the upstairs bedrooms are being used for various 100 year anniversary of the 1915 Exposition and the 1935 exposition memorabilia and information about the architects and what Balboa park looked like at that time. The two tour guides governing this part of the house were quite informed and helpful.
I don’t normally complain or put forth criticisms on this blog but our main guide was quite confusing. He spoke as if the people involved were alive right now, so it took awhile to understand what he was saying. He did not like questions and almost exclusively stuck to his main spoil, and in pointing out that the original wall paper and furniture of the house wasn’t there anymore and had been replaced with traditional Arts and Crafts styles he lauded the change, stating that Mrs. Marston would have gone for the gaudy Victorian wall paper and furniture styles of the day. That seemed to me an odd statement to make where a person is showing a historic home. I personally would have appreciated seeing the house as it was originally, but understood that perhaps throughout the years with different organizations care taking the home, with varying attention to care, perhaps it led to the original furniture either being given away to family members or lost to age or disrepair.
This home is large even by modern standards so it must have been huge in those days. So, if you get a chance to tour this house, I recommend you take the time to do so. I’m grateful for all that George Marston did to preserve areas of San Diego.